A familiar was a normal animal or similar creature that had been summoned to service by a sorcerer or wizard and magically bonded to the spellcaster, after which it became a magical creature and gained greater intelligence and new powers. The magical link between a familiar and its master was so strong that in some ways they shared a common existence. All familiars had special abilities of their own and also granted special abilities to their masters in return.
All familiars were intelligent—not necessarily very intelligent, but more so than an animal. They automatically knew any skills that their master knew—though they might not be able to do those skills for lack of speaking or opposable thumbs, for example. They were able to understand Common, but most were not able to speak it.
Familiars over time tended to grow tougher than other examples of their former species, and they were extraordinarily adept at avoiding danger that would harm typical specimens.
Familiars and their master shared an empathic link. For up to 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), a master could sense whatever emotions the familiar happened to be feeling and vice versa. This mystical connection also meant that the spellcaster could have any spell granting a personal benefit affect the familiar as well, and it meant that magics linked to the caster's presence or memory could use the familiar's instead. Very powerful spellcasters, who had been bound to the same familiar for a long time, could eventually even scry through their familiar and use its senses.
As the bond between spellcaster and familiar grew, the familiar could pass on the master's spells by touch, and the two would eventually learn how to speak a shared language unique only to them. As familiars shared the bond with their masters, they continued to grow more powerful and more intelligent and learned how to communicate with members of their former kind of creature. Especially powerful familiars even gained a resistance against magical spells.
Familiars that remained very close to their masters helped to keep them more alert.
So closely were a familiar and its master bonded that separation—either by death or dismissal—harmed the other. If a spellcaster lost his or her familiar, it was impossible to bond with another for at least year and a day.
It was only possible for a spellcaster to form a bond with one familiar at a time.
After the Spellplague, wizards could use the spell find familiar to gain a familiar, although some creatures could still choose to bind to them in the traditional way. Familiars acquired through the use of the spell were spirits that could assume the form of a number of small animals and could change form through repeated castings of the spell.
Creatures that had become familiars of spellcasters in the Realms included:
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- Skip Williams (2005-09-06). “Familiars (Part One)”. Rules of the Game. Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2016-10-31. Retrieved on 2020-05-04.
- Skip Williams (2005-09-13). “Familiars (Part Two)”. Rules of the Game. Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2016-10-31. Retrieved on 2020-05-04.
- Skip Williams (2005-09-20). “Familiars (Part Three)”. Rules of the Game. Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2016-10-31. Retrieved on 2020-05-04.
- Skip Williams (2005-09-27). “Familiars (Part Four)”. Rules of the Game. Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2016-10-31. Retrieved on 2020-05-04.
- David Howery (December 1993). “Familiar Faces”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #200 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 30–33.
- Jean Rabe (April 1996). “Greater Familiars of Faerûn”. In Pierce Watters ed. Dragon #228 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 76–82.
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- Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (July 2003). Player's Handbook v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 54. ISBN 0-7869-2886-7.
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